I acknowledge and agree with the sentiment that seems to have motivated your essay, but there are some inaccuracies in it that I think serve to propagate the same misunderstandings that are present in “neo-advaita” today, so I don’t think it is helping you undermine criticisms that the content of your writing is neo-advaitan in character.

This phenomenon of being criticized for talking about meditational imperiences and the insights that result from them is common. Because there are so many different traditions, there are many philosophies that attempt to explain such insights, often using a tradition-specific lexicon. If you are outside of any tradition, then part of the criticism is always going to be that you are using the wrong words, and don’t understand the philosophy (of whatever tradition the person launching the criticism at you comes from).

Neo-advaita is the name of a modern movement and although it ‘sells’ itself as advaita, there really isn’t much connection between the two, according to orthodox followers of the philosophy, thus the “neo-” prefix that is applied by critics of it.

Certain of the widely posited views of neo-advaita are present in what you wrote, for example the misunderstanding of what advaita means (and by that I don’t mean a particular translation into English). Both Neo-Advaita and Advaita Vedanta have good write-ups in wikipedia, so you can see how they differ. The association of an individual self with what is real (Brahman, in Hinduism) that is found in advaita vedanta is not elevating selfhood, but replacing the error of selfhood with the truth (in Hinduism).

That said, what I do want to contest is the understanding of nonduality that you suggest in this article, because it is definitely a neo-advaitan one. The word “advaita” means not-two, rather than “not-twoness” which is a modern misunderstanding. The first means there aren’t two things, while pointedly not saying that there is one thing (otherwise why not just say “One!”). While the latter is a modern abstraction that overlooks the skillful absence of an assertion of “oneness” in saying “not two.”

Unfortunately, the modern understanding equates advaita to “oneness” or that there is only the “One.” But advaita more accurately means that there isn’t something that is other than Brahman (which also has a good writeup on wikipedia). In Hinduism (which is the religion, whereas advaita vedanta is a philosophy within Hinduism), Brahman is a principle, the supreme principle within all that (seems to) exist. I’ll leave it to actual practioners to explain it better.

But nonduality isn’t just a Hindu understanding. At its heart Buddhism also is positing a nonduality in which there is no self. And in ancient Greece, which also had a nondual tradition at one time, the word for nonduality was “Apollo” which comes from the Greek: “a pollõn” which translates as “not many” again (for this Pythagorean etymology see Plutarch “Isis and Osiris” 381F).

Unfortunately, most people who are confronted by this conceptual description of reality fall directly into the “one thing” understanding — that there is only one thing: reality itself, or the universe itself, or the Self, or God.

So please note that there is no self in a nonduality, or as you might put it: “there is no self at all, anywhere, ever.” So when you say that, you are specifically eliciting a nondual understanding. (period)

Note that I didn’t say “-and-is-not.” The goddess Persphone, in her revelation of “What is” to the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides (found in the three-part poem that Parmenides wrote), pointedly cutoff that way of speaking, because — she explained to him — you can’t talk about what is-not, just what is. If you think you actually have a handle on “is-not”, then you’re just holding onto a concept of absence, i.e. a phantom of your intellect.

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